Marion Jones faces medal loss

Washington (dpa) – Former sprint star Marion Jones has reportedly finally ended years of doping denials and could be stripped of Olympic and world championship gold medals as a result.

Marion Jones of the United States

Marion Jones of the United States, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the 100m at the Summer Olympics ,Saturday, Sept. 23, 2000, at Olympic Stadium in Sydney. Jones admitted using steroids before the 2000 Olympics in a recent letter to close family and friends, The Washington Post reported Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007.
Photo: AP

The International Olympic Committee and the ruling athletics body IAAF said on Friday they were awaiting further details and will investigate if Jones formally admits to doping.

Jones famously won three golds and two bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She also has five world titles 1997-2001.

The Washington Post reported late Thursday that, in a letter sent to close family and friends, Jones claimed that a coach gave her a purported nutritional supplement that she later learned was a designer steroid.

The letter to Jones’ loved ones came ahead of her expected guilty plea later Friday in a federal court in New York to two counts of lying to federal investigators, according to the text of the letter. The agents had interviewed her about both steroids and her personal finances.

Jones has long denied doping, but the allegations intensified after she was linked in 2004 to the San Francisco-based BALCO lab, which produced a liquid, oral steroid, known as THG or ”the clear.”

Since her connection to the BALCO scandal, Jones has been the target of a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation.

The International Olympic Committee has said it would consider stripping her of the five medals she won in Sydney if evidence of doping emerged.

The statute of limitations for the IOC, the IAAF and other sports federations is eight years.

”The IOC has learnt about Marion Jones’s intention to plead guilty to lying to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing substances during her career,” the IOC said in a short statement Friday.

”Since 2004 the IOC has had an open file on the BALCO case – it set up a disciplinary commission with a view to investigating how the affair might have affected Olympic Games competitions.

”Progress to date has been slow due the difficulty of gathering findings. The information that MarionJones might provide later on today may prove to be key in moving this case forward.”

The spokesman of the ruling athletics body IAAF, Nick Davies, said Friday that it would take action against Jones if the report and testimony are confirmed, which could cost her medals from the worlds as well.

The Post reported on its website that a person who received the letter had read it over the telephone to a reporter. A second source with knowledge of Jones’ legal circumstances, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the facts of the letter.

In the letter, Jones said that ”the clear” was supplied to her by former coach Trevor Graham, who told her that it was flaxseed oil. She wrote that ”red flags should have been raised” when Graham told her to keep the nutritional supplement a secret.

Jones tested positive in June 2006 for the banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO), but the B-sample tested negative, clearing her of doping.

In November 2006, Graham was charged with making false statements to federal agents in connection with a doping probe. A string of Graham’s athletes have tested positive for doping, and in August 2006, athletes trained by him were banned from competing in the final Golden League series stop in Berlin.

Jones’ former boyfriend and ex-100-metre world-record holder Tim Montgomery had to serve a two-year doping ban based on evidence from the BALCO case, without a positive test.

In early 2006, Jones and BALCO lab founder Victor Conte reached a settlement in her 25-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against the lab. Jones took Conte to court when he claimed he had given Jones a series of forbidden substances before and after the Sydney Games.

Her ex-husband C.J. Hunter was banned for two years over steroid doping revealed at the Sydney Olympics.

There, Jones won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold, plus bronze medals in the long jump and 4x400m relay. She also has five world titles, 100m and 4x100m in 1997 100 and 1999, 200m and 4x100m in 2001.

The US track and field body USATF said in a statement from its president Craig Masback: ”While USATF has no knowledge of any letter or pending plea agreement regarding MarionJones, we continue our long-stated support for the efforts of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the federal government in their investigations.

”Any use of performance-enhancing substances is a tragedy for the athlete, their teammates, friends, family and the sport. We await any further developments on this matter.”

If the IOC decides to strip Jones of the Sydney medals, the 100m title should go to the second-placed finisher – Ekaterini Thanou, who was at the centre of massive doping scandal at her home Olympics 2004 in Athens, from which she was forced to withdraw as a result